Copyright (c) Victor Darnell Hadnot
"Yet mightst thou seem, proud privilege to sing..." William Wordsworth
There was this constant drizzle, rain just everywhere, a damp and soaking condition that seemed to dictate the mood of everyone around. I was driving through a tiny town, village really, headed towards Mildenhall, a small town next to RAF Mildenhall, where I was stationed. I had a few days off. Been in London, I shot the tubes, from Cambridge after having been to several small parties in Saint Edmunds. First of all, I probably should not have been drinking as much as I had, but, when you get two days off, you take in all that comes with them. In this case, a cute Airwoman, named Deborah, was the reason I was so ready to party. We'd been friends ever since we attended Air Force Tech School together, before we were stationed at Mildenhall.
I'm what you call a Food Service Specialist. So was Deborah. What that means is that we make sure that the In-Flight Food process goes smoothly. We make sure that the pilots have the right food for those specially long flights. Things have to be done right. You don't want to have trouble at 35,000 feet up. Though, on occasion, not my fault, things do go wrong, and some angry pilot comes into the Chow Hall, pissed as ever. Shouting all sorts of shit about how he or she had to spend more time on the In-Flight head, than piloting the plane. Oh well. We are all human and make mistakes. It is all part of the learning process. Ever learning. Ever processing. Ever just so much bull crap. I know what you are thinking. You thought that everyone that joined the Air Force, were going to be pilots? Well. I am. I have a private pilot's license. I can fly those small little planes, you know, the ones that always fall out of the sky. Well. The next time you hear about one of them having some trouble and landing on some forsaken highway, or right on your front yard. Don't think about me, because it wasn't me. I'm good at what I do.
What do I do? I'm a Food Service Specialist. Okay, I'm a cook. The title is something that the Air Force wanted to give us poor slobs, that weren't smart enough to be pilots and not brave enough to be in the Marines or the Army. Not that I'm putting down those branches of the service, no, not at all. After all, someone has to be front line infantry. Actually I scored really high on my military exams, I ran into trouble, after I had picked out a really good job in the Air Force: Photogrammetry Recovery Specialist. Big title, huh? Yeah. Well, all that really means is that I was suppose to be looking at Top Secret spy photos. But crap happens, I got bumped from the spot. Some Senator's kid pushed me out and I defaulted to this job. It is not so bad though, I get to eat a lot, have lots of friends that go through the chow line, and I pilferage for the Black Market on my days off. You'd be surprised what quality beef steaks go for in Europe. More than horse meat. Yuk. As I was driving my yellow and black MG Midget, off to one side I spotted a young woman, standing off to the side of the road. I thought she was stranded or something, I felt I had to pull over and make sure that everything was alright. After all, this was a long stretch of road with little traffic on it. I pulled over, Thetford Forest was just about. There was that persistent drizzle that kept on annoying me. Looking at her, she stood about five foot two, long brown hair, that was damp from the weather. See wore a royal velvet dress, that cascaded off plush, stretched velvet that hallmarked the dress. A graceful ballet neckline, with tapering sleeves, ending in points over her hands, with a long right-side kick pleat. Over that a deep velvet tunic top.
I asked, "Do you need a lift?"
She stared at me for a good while, I suppose, trying to make up her mind if she'd feel safe getting into some bloke's car, specially an obvious foreigner, then she said, "I'd love to. You headed to Mildenhall?"
She got in my car and I adjusted the heater, feeling that she needed some warmth. I said, "I am headed in that direction. Going to pass through it actually.'
Her face was square, but not extreme, just the right amount of proportion to make her look beautiful. Her large brown eyes took in the interior of my car, she glanced back out the closed window, as I began to pull away from the side of the dirt and mud onto the well paved road. Her lips were full and her mouth small, which all made her seem younger than what she really was, in her early twenties, I guessed. "I need to get to Mildenhall," she finally spoke again.
"Well. You are in luck."
"You are foreign?"
"American," I uttered, I knew not to make too much of it, specially now days. You never know who you are talking to.
"That's nice", she came back at me, and I un-tensed a bit.
"Quite a stretch of road to be stranded on?" I wanted to know how she got out there. "Your car stuck back there somewhere?" I hadn't seen one.
She studied my face, I could feel her eyes, then she responded. "No. I don't have a car. But. Your's is nice."
"Thanks. I bought it when I first got over here."
"You are a G.I.?"
"You are stationed at the base?"
I wanted to get away from me. They give us all those lectures on how to behave when you are off base. Wear civilian clothes. Don't talk about what goes on, on the base. Loose lips and all that. "Yeah, well, it is a living, right?"
She smiled, "I'm Kathy."
"Nice to meet you, Hector."
"Nice to meet you, Kathy." I drove on for sometime, the silence was natural, then; "You got family in town?"
"Family? You got family in town?"
Kathy seemed sad suddenly, maybe it was none of my business. I mean, the poor thing was stuck, out on the road, wet, alone. If she had family, wouldn't she have called for them to come and pick her up? She managed to respond, "Not as you would know of it."
Her obvious British accent was a trip. I actually liked the accent, it sounded kind of cool. One time, I was at a party, and tried to fake it. I sounded like an idiot. Everyone shined me on until I stopped doing it. "But you have some place to be, right?"
"Well. I can't just drop you off in the middle of town. I mean, I'm not trying to pry or anything. Just want to make sure you get to where you are going, safe."
Again, another smile. "That is sweet of you. But I'm okay now."
What did she mean by that? Was she safe because she was no longer stranded? "Good."
The rain kept on coming. At times there were outbursts but mostly there was that miserable mind numbing drizzle. The sky was grey with clouds looking like you could just reach up and touch them. I managed to pull into town at about dusk. There were a few shops that were starting to wind things down. Going around a round-about I pulled up to a favorite little shop that served fish-n-chips. I'd been going there for sometime, ever since I'd been turned onto it by one of the locals that worked at the base. The U.S. Air Force had a deal with the locals, they agreed to hire on the local talent, in order to offset the fact that the U.S. presence was there. It worked out alright, most of the time. There were those times when the two cultures seemed to clash, like when it came to tea time. The local blokes would just stop doing whatever they were doing and have tea. Whether or not they actually drank tea was anybodies guess, but the fact that they'd just stop for a few hours and just sit around, talking it seemed, was annoying to the Air Force Colonels, who were in charge of those special projects.
I asked Kathy if she had, had anything to eat, indicated that the fish-n-chips were really good at this particular shop. She didn't seem to mind, so I pulled over, we were in Mildenhall by that time. The shop was a little house, looked like someone might actually live there, in the back, and used the front for a business. It was cold, and in the evening, that is when the place would open up, and a line would form out the door. You could tell that there were a fair mix of locals and G.I.'s, off duty, some wearing civilian clothes, waiting to get hold of some munches. We got out the car, I'd found a good place to park, not too close, because I wanted to be able to get back on the road after dinner, easier.
For a brief moment, as Kathy got out of the car, she stopped, looked about the area. I'm not sure what she was looking at, her face seemed filled with want of recognition, as she looked at the various buildings and structures. I just took a guess that she hadn't been in the town for awhile. I kind of motioned, for us to go on, and she gave a quaint little grin as if to say, "Sorry." Then she followed me on and we took our place in line. As we were about it, a few of my friends from the base recognized me. I heard my name being called out. I looked up and there was Tina and Harry. They both worked in the Chow Hall with me. They'd actually been there longer. Harry's time was about up, but he was talking about extending it, by re-enlisting, the deal was that he got to stay over here, in England.
Some of the G.I.'s really liked it over here, some didn't. For some, it was the weird weather. It took some getting used too. If you did, then there were the odd customs, and then there was the fact that you were on the other side of the world, away from loved ones and such things. I didn't have any of that kind of baggage. I knew when I got the assignment, that there was nothing back home for me. Family didn't really care for me, I was the child that didn't get the love he deserved. It always went to my half brother, seems mom loved Dicky best. Then there was the fact that I'd planned on making the Air Force my career. I had it all planned out, I'd do twenty years, all the while getting a slow but progressive education, the internet would serve me well for that. Eventually rise in rank, getting all the stipes that I could get, then meander into the officer's ranks, as my education paid off. Yes. I had it all figured out, or so I thought.
My friends kept on calling out to me, Kathy and I were further along than they were. Before I knew anything, they were right there with us. What the heck? The bloody twits had cut in front of others. How rude. That was the kind of stuff that gave G.I.'s. a bad name around these parts. The act of entitlement, like because we were Air Force, somehow we were better.
Harry had a big grin on his face as he made those last few maneuvers that placed him and Tina in back of us. "Fancy you here, Hector."
Tina said, "I thought you'd still be on your day off. You know how you get."
What she was referring to, was the fact that I liked to cut it close. Really close. Like getting in, on base just hours before I was due back on duty. Once I was in Saint Edmunds and I managed to get my car stuck in a parking lot. You see, I was used of the lots in the States, where they were open all night. Not so out here, they closed, at what I called early. The owner, actually wanting to go home and be with his family. How odd? Can you imagine that, a married man actually wanting to go home after work? Culture. Anyway, there I was, having a good time at some local pub. I must have had several un-rated beers. The brew in Europe was way stronger than the stuff in the States. I just barely made it to work the next day.
I decided to admonish them. "You know. That is just rude."
Harry didn't have a clue. "What's rude? You mean me breaking wind? I didn't do it around you. I did it back there. It just followed me as I went."
Even Tina was grossed out. "Oh, Harry, really? Is that what I've been smelling all this time? I thought there were sewer problems around here."
"Ah. You know how I get when I get hungry. I get gassy. Making room." Harry didn't have much manners, raised by his dad, mother up and left them when he was young.
Tina noticed I was with someone, "And whom might this lovely lady be?" Tina, herself was quite good looking. She liked to wear her long black hair down, when she was off duty. Her coffee brown skin made her look like she had a permanent tan, even in this climate, she being Filipino. Her intelligent brown eyes raced over to Kathy's location, she extended a hand. "Hi, I'm Tina and this smelly slob is Harry. We are friends of Hector."
I looked at Kathy, who seemed more than amused at my choice of companions. "I'm Kathy," she returned the gesture as she shook Tina's hand.
"Hmm. You are cold, you need to warm up some there, girl." said Tina, in a friendly tone.
Harry missed the cue or just plain old was in his own world, "What's wrong, Hector isn't keeping you warm enough?" Everyone just looked at Harry for a brief moment of friendly contempt. "What?"
"Kathy and I just met." I felt the need to explain, after having seen how she was taking it. I leaned over to Kathy and whispered, "Don't worry. They are harmless. I think."
Kathy giggled, "Your friends seem just fine."
Tina said, "You see there, Hector. You don't need to make excuses for us. We seem just fine."
Harry uttered, "I need to eat."
I reminded him, "There are a few others in front of us."
"If I don't get something to eat soon. I'm gonna fart!"
Tina stepped back. "Not again, dude! I swear! You do and I'll drop you where you stand. People are standing around here waiting to get something to eat. Not to smell what you had for lunch!"
Harry spoke up. "Oh. Oh. It is too late."
We all started waving our hands about, hoping to clear the air, but Harry was standing too close and was obviously very proud of what he had just managed to share with us, and everyone else in the vicinity, who could possibly be smelling, Harry's special fart.
A few days later. There was this party happening at Royce and Fiona's flat. They were Air Force too, but they pooled their resources, as did a lot of G.I..s and were living off base. It was really liberating to live off base if you were stationed in the right country. Not so much if you were in Iraq or Afghanistan. But here, in England, while there were definitely threats and one had to be on the watch, less pressure was on you to keep it all on base. Though, to be honest, the safest place for a G.I. during times of war, I mean, we are at war, right? Was to be on the base. So, being a cook in the Chow Hall, I got to see a lot of people. All sorts of specialist came through the Chow Hall. We had just had the place remodeled. When I first came here, I worked in a little dinky building. But even then, work had been going on to build a completely new Chow Hall. Mostly because the old facility couldn't accommodate, the influx of new soldiers. We'd feed the locals on Sunday. And that added to the overall situation. I'd work the breakfast shift on Sundays, though I'd rotate with Tina or Harry, they did this for two reasons. One to cut down on poor morale, and two, because doing things on a too predictable schedule was not good soldiering, least, that, was what we all were told by the Captain. Yeah. Chow Halls have officers running them, just like any other facility in the military. Oh. The NCO's did all the work, while the officers just posed and pretended to be doing something. All that, except when it came to the local blokes, and their tea time. Then it was all up to the officer in charge.
After, Don't Ask Don't Tell was repealed, a G.I. like Royce could be himself. He came down the stairs wearing what looked like a semi-gown, European clogs, and Elton John sunglasses. Yes. It was over the top. But it was a party. Everyone was just out to let off some steam and have a good time. I moved about the flat, mingling with friends and others, a beer in hand. I had managed to get next to a wall, where several local hammers were hanging around. I assumed it was to get a better field of the guys at the party. There was the usual "Hey" and other unintelligent grunts that pass for "Hello" around these parts, but I really found no one very interesting. Then Fiona's face came into my field of view. Smiling and all happy. She was drunk, or getting there. We talked and made promises that we both knew we'd either regret in the morning or just plain old wouldn't keep at all. Again, party talk.
I was getting into the vibe of the place. More people came and went and then came again. I'd seen faces that I hadn't seen in months. But. Because I worked at the Chow Hall, apparently, they'd seen me. Someone was asking me about selling them a crate of pork chops at fifty percent off, when off to my right side, I noticed a dark figure approach. For some reason it was different. Caught my attention. It was Kathy. To be honest I was surprised to see her at the party. I'd been to dozens of these things, at different locations, different G.I.'s flats, almost never a local's place. Now that I thought about it, I'm not really sure why? I mean, I got along with most of the locals, just right. Hmm. I wondered why not, a local's party next time?
She was smiling at me. But. Seconds before, she was not, her face seemed to light up when she was sure it was me. Or. Was I just being conceded? I never considered myself like that. Very easy going. Making friends with just about everybody. All, except Hump. Who was Hump? He was our commanding officer, Major "Hump" Gage. Man, what a character. When I first met him, I was a new recruit just in from the States. He called me in with my sponsor, a good looking Airwoman named Stacie. I always liked her. She treated me with kindness and understanding, even when I got into trouble from time to time. Anyway, less I digress too much, Hump threatened me with a baronet, he kept in his desk, said he wouldn't hesitate to use it if one of his troops got out of line. I always thought it was more for affect than for purpose. Just imagine a
Major stabbing a NCO because they ran up a bar tab and couldn't pay it off on time?
Kathy's face seemed to shone in the night light as we made our way to the balcony, some other people, couples mostly, had come up with the same idea. We kind of watched them for a moment then the attention turned squarely on ourselves. I said, "Wasn't expecting to see you here."
Kathy wiped something from around my mouth, gently, almost sensuously, then she responded, "Why? Are you disappointed?"
"What? No. No. In fact, it is good to see you."
"Well. It is the truth. Did you ever find what you were looking for, in town?"
She glanced off into the night. "I've found it now."
Wow. I was just drunk enough not to know if that was a come-on or just a cultural distinction. I played it safe. I said, "Royce and Fiona must know half the population in town."
Then I knew that she had managed to get herself here, but it had nothing to do with Royce and Fiona's party. She was here to see me. Okay. "How have you been, Kathy?" The slur in my voice was straightening out, lust will do that to you.
"Ever wonder what you'd do if you had a second chance?" Her voice was almost lyrical, man, she was a hot chick!
"I. Er. I believe in second chances. If you only knew how much I screw up."
"Yes. We all make mistakes. Don't we?"
"Sure. But that doesn't mean that we have to let those mistakes define who we are. I mean, some people spend there entire lives, making mistakes, only to find in the end, that fate deals them a fresh new hand."
"A fresh new hand," she repeated. "I need that. That's what I'm experiencing. You do understand, don't you, Hector?" Then she leaned over to me and kissed me.
It was a very good kiss. I liked it. Her lips were soft and gentle, she knew what she was doing because there was passion without lust. She didn't kiss me in a way that resembled a smutty kiss, no, this was emotionally connecting. "Wow. That was nice."
Kathy rested her lovely head on my chest briefly then glanced up at me, "Yes. It was."
"So. Are we going to do something about this?"
"I don't know. Let's dance. Dance with me?"
Oh boy. That was my weakness. I don't dance. I look stupid when I dance. I look like some alien creature trying to look like I belong, while all the time, not. I just blurted out, "Kathy, I don't dance."
Kathy stepped back. Her eyes seem to change emotionally, briefly, but she came back. She asked, "Is it me? Is there something wrong with me?"
"Oh. No. You are perfect! Goodness, Kathy, I've never met anyone quite like you."
"Then, dance with me?"
I took in a deep breath. Nodded. And we began to make our way back into the main part of the flat, where other couples were engaged in various levels of dance. Some really cool. Some. Not so much. I knew I was going to fall into the latter. Just then Fiona came over. She was all happy and stuff. She had a list in her hand and handed it to me. I had to stabilize her at one point but she recovered and just started to giggle at herself, at how intoxicated she was becoming.
"We need more booze!" Fiona's speech told me that she had, had enough. But I took the bait and used that as an excuse not to complete the dance with Kathy. Was I being a jerk?
Of course. Though I can clearly state now, that fear of dancing is up there with irrational fear of clowns, I still could have sporadically wiggled my body around, just because she had so charmingly asked. Will I ever learn? I always go for the slovenly types. Yeah. I'm like most guys. I don't want a challenge. I just want to get laid. Oh. That is not to say that I don't appreciate a quality women. No. Momma didn't raise no fool! But that type of woman always came with baggage. Not to say that beautiful Kathy didn't have baggage, that I couldn't learn to cope with. I'm sure that I would. But my frame of mind wasn't to the commitment type. Yes. Did I have friends like: Tina, Fiona, and others, friends in whom from one occasion to another, either they or me, we'd pour out our souls to. Yes. I did. But we all knew that there were no strings attached. We were just super good friends, that from time to time, got too drunk and would have sex. End up regretting it the next day. But would turn around and find ourselves right back in the same situation, as soon as the memory faded. Either that, or we all were just seriously stupid.
I'd been driving along that same stretch of road. I believe I was headed to a pub to meet some friends on one of my days off. I hadn't seen Kathy in about two weeks and had come to the conclusion that she was too good for me, anyway. This was my way of preserving her memory as something pure and pleasant. Not dismissive, "You slut!" Though the latter was easier to live with. As I went along, listening to some classic Hendrix, I spotted a shadowy figure out of the corner of my eye. Standing on the side of the road. Was that Kathy? Again? How could that be? There was nothing but forest for kilometers. I turned around. And about the time I had, the figure was moving into the thick of the forest. Quickly getting out, I decided to pursue. Maybe that was the wrong decision because I had no right to just stop my car and begin chasing a person into the forest. I mean, that is stocking, right?
Okay. All moral effigy aside, I was chasing, whom I was pretty sure to be Kathy. I think I even began to call out to her after it became painfully clear that she was out flanking me. This kept going awhile until we were deep into the forest. Then I came to a small clearing. The sun had managed to peek through the clouds at that very moment. As I had been chasing this figure, I spotted clothing, tossed aside. Some on branches. Some on the ground. What in the heck was going one here?
At the clearing I got my answer. This was indeed Kathy. As beautiful as I had ever seen her. Fully nude. Swaying and waving her arms about in a rhythmic fashion. Twirling. Spinning. She was dancing. I must have stood there, watching this lovely women, I was transfixed. Then she seemed to acknowledge my presence and swirled gracefully over to me. She smiled and I was warmed up inside, on what was a very cold day. Her lovely long hair was damp from that insistent drizzle. Oh. How damp is England? Then she asked me to dance with her. Well. I had already blown it at the party. I felt I owed her a dance or something. The truth is that I felt compelled almost and before I knew it, we were dancing. She had gently touched my cheek with her right hand, so soft, and at that moment I suddenly knew, I understood why she was dancing. I heard the music. This strange, yet hauntingly beautiful music, with a voice singing notes so pure, I was caught up in a rapture. I can't tell you how long we danced. But. At some point, the world began to spin and things began to swirl, I found myself on the ground. Leaves and brush all about my face. It was like I'd taken some bad acid. Then I heard her voice whisper urgently, "Run!" I felt her hand take mine as she helped me to my feet and we began to run back towards the road,
at what was nothing less than breakneck speed. She was ahead of me and I could just barely keep up. The branches were breaking all about my face and body. I must have almost lost balance several times because her hand would tighten, even more so, as if to marshal me forward. Behind me I could hear something coming. It was big. Fast. Whatever it was frightened me and her. I remember seeing her glance back, first at me, as if to make sure I was okay and still with her, and then at whatever frightened her so much. The clearing finally broke free, there was the road and my little MG Midget. I was so caught up in the moment. Filled with fright and confusion. I panicked. I remember rushing into my car. For some reason Kathy was not with me, but that thing, I was sure was not far from getting me. I started the engine and drove off with a wild abandonment. What in the hell had I just done? I was trained better than that! Hell! I'm a G. freaking I. I've been trained to handle situations in a calmer manner than that. But. No. I panicked, driving on off, leaving poor Kathy to whatever horrible fate was to befall her. Why wasn't she in front of me when we reached the clearing? I only got a glimpse of something really big darting out of the brush for a brief moment and then it was gone. Or. I was gone?
I was not proud of myself. I must have dragged myself around at work and off duty for days. Yes. I was worried as to Kathy's fate. But look what I had done? I just left her there. Drove away like some coward!
"You did what you had to do." Tina and Fiona, and the rest of them, they listened to my story but I knew better. They were friends. They were going to say things like that. That is what friends do.
I finally muttered, "I was wrong to just up and leave her there."
Royce supplied us all with another round of beer. "Fear does strange things to people, Hector. You are human."
Tina said, "I'm glad that you are okay. We all were wondering what was wrong with you, these last few days."
Fiona added, "We were going to do a party intervention, on you."
"You were?" I finally managed to get out.
Harry was actually not drinking as much as he usually did. This told me everything about what they really were thinking. "I'm sure she is alright."
"Would you do something like that if the shoe was on the other foot?" I asked them. I already knew the answer. Leave no man or woman behind. But. She wasn't military. Dammit! There I was, rationalizing my cowardly behavior.
"You never know what you are going to do until you are there." Fiona volunteered.
"Yeah. I know." I tilted my head back on the beat up party sofa. It usually smelled funny, but this time, I really didn't care. Off to the side, in the kitchen, I could hear some of them, talking about it, about me. Had I lost the respect of my friends?
"Maybe I should leave." I finally announced.
Tina and Harry both said at the same time: "We'll drive you."
"No. That is okay." I responded.
Royce shook his head. "No. You are a mess. Believe me, I've been there. Let the two of them take you back to the base."
I looked at each and everyone of them. I studied their eyes. All I saw was concern. They really were good friends. Why did I suddenly feel like I didn't deserve them anymore? Maybe I
was a mess. "Yeah. Okay. You guys are probably right."
There is no right or wrong way to feel pain. It all hurts! I really didn't know what to do after all that. I spent a good deal of time not getting drunk or going to my friend's parties when we all were off duty. There was this feeling I had that I wasn't the man I had thought I was. I could tell that Tina and Fiona and Harry and Royce were starting to get really concerned about me. At first they tried giving me some space. In most cases that would have worked. But Kathy had gotten to me. I don't know how or why. There was something very special about her. I remembered her marvelous eyes. Her wonderful lips. She was built like a goddess, yet, there was this tragic aura of helplessness about her, yet a tremendous strength. I had to know more about her so I started to ask around. I started with the obvious places. Where I had first dropped her off in town. I asked the locals. One lead led to another. I began to get a glimpse.
Oddly enough. I discovered that she might have relatives that lived in Cambridge. So. I took a drive out that way. Did some looking around on my days off. I ran into a dead end though. But. I kept on asking questions. Someone had to know this woman. She seemed to be familiar to some but when I pressed deeper, they drew a blank. After a few tries I just resorted to focus back on Mildenhall. That seemed to hold more promise than the other places. One day, as I worked the chow line, I was slicing roast beef, cutting the slices too thick, or so the people who out ranked me told me. It really didn't matter, because I kept on doing so anyway. Hey. These were our troops, right? They deserve the best, right? One of the recurring troops, passing through, gave me a tip, she had heard that I was trying to find Kathy. I don't know how she heard, maybe Fiona or Harry, or Tina, maybe Royce, I don't know, collectively, we all knew a lot of people. Anyway, the Airwoman pointed me in the direction of the base library.
On my day off I took a stroll over to the library and began to ask around. Sure enough, one of the personnel knew of her. Seems that Kathy was in the Royal Air Force. She actually worked on the base for awhile, she was part of the clerical pool. I began to get this picture of this really lovely person, floated from one department to another. When I inquired as to why she had been floated, it seemed that the women that worked in those places, some of them, not all of them, took a disliking to her. Jealousy. They felt threatened by the fact that she was so pretty. The problem was that Kathy was also very emotionally unstable, maybe exceptionally so. The rejection and perceived isolation, lack of friends, started to bother her and she began to withdraw.
The facts were sketchy at best. One thing became very clear. She had worked in the area some time back. Best I could tell, some seven years ago. But what happened to her after that? Why did she suddenly pop back up after so long? One person would point me in one direction and I'd go and then another person would point in another direction and I looked into that. I found myself running thin on answers and even thinner on health. I was starting to notice that I'd lost a lot of weight. I wasn't taking care of myself. Tina once got hold of me. She and I were close enough for her to be able to tell me, like it was, and there would be no hard feelings. In fact, that was the beauty of the relation I had with my friends. We loved each other, not so much in a physical way, but I'm talking about in the good way. Helping one another. I guess we were all close like that. We'd give each other space when they needed it, but we were never too far away, when we needed to be there. At Tina's suggestion I went and talked with a priest who was reported to have known Kathy. Father McInnes was an old man, looked like he'd been Base Caplin forever. He told me that there was a Kathy that he knew of and from the way he described her, it was the women I was searching for. Kathy had spiraled into a deep depression and finally committed suicide seven years ago. That was before I was stationed at Mildenhall. I told
the Chaplin that it couldn't be the right woman, because I had met her, she was alive. My friends had all met her. So. It was a dead end after all. The woman I was looking for had taken her own life seven years before I could have even laid eyes on her? Before I left the Chaplin's office he remembered something. He went over to a cabinet and took out a folder. In it was a photograph. He handed it to me. I froze when I saw it. There was no mistaking it. The woman in the photo was indeed the Kathy I'd met. I left there bewildered and more confused than ever.
A few months had gone by. The weather was now starting to get better. My frame of mind had returned to that of being normal, whatever that was. Harry and Tina had managed to get tickets to see the musical band Orange Ruby. Yes. Things had finally gotten back to some semblance of what life used to be, before Kathy. I was my old self and my friends looked at me with that wonderful old gaze of confidence and acceptance. Gone was the look of worry. The secret meetings to talk about what they could do to try and help me. Man. I must have been a burden to them all. But. They were there for me when I needed them and that was a lesson that I'd never forget. Finally the day came for the concert. "Got all your stuff together?" Tina asked. We were going to the concert in a beat up old car that Harry refused to get rid of, claimed that it was a European classic. Yeah. Right.
Harry was behind the wheel. Tina sat shotgun while I contented myself to sit in back. We had packed a lunch and brought our own booze. Harry uttered as he drove, "Did you hear that Royce is up for a promotion?"
"Yeah. I heard. What's his rank going to be?" I asked.
Tina glanced towards the back from the front seat, "I think he's going to make Chief."
"Man, has it all been that long?"
"Well. He had a lot of education before he enlisted."
Harry interjected, "I think he was a year from getting his bachelors. And you know he's been going to college online, on and off."
I nodded, "Yeah. I need to get back into that myself. I kind of let that slip for awhile."
Tina added, "You know. We all do. Let's make a pact."
Harry grinned, "What type of a pact?"
Tina continued, "That we will all stay in school until we finish our bachelors. Then we will go through the process and become officers. Have the minions saluting us." We all started to laugh. But we were serious about finishing our education. All of us came into the Air Force with associate degrees but Royce was the one who seemed motivated and kept on studying, on a regular basis. He was going to be the one to get there first.
As we went on we passed the area where I had first set eyes on Kathy. We were listening to the White Album by the Beetles. Getting really into it, singing, or trying to sing the words. Out the corner of my eye I spotted a dark figure for a brief moment. Tina looked back at me and asked me if I wanted a wine cooler, Harry wasn't drinking because he was the designated driver. But the two of us were getting the party started early. "Do you want a cooler, Hector?" she asked with a warm smile.
I had, at that moment, looked in back of me. My eyes were on the rear window where I had seen that dark figure. I heard Tina's voice asking me a question but my mind was now on that spot off the road. The figure just stood there. Like it was waiting. Was it Kathy? I couldn't
tell because we were moving away from the point and it was on the opposite side of the road.
Suddenly, Tina's voice broke through, "After we get to where we are going. Dance with me."